I followed some links on the Center on The Developing Child website for Harvard University. I was lead to Boston’s NPR radio station 90.9 WBUR and a blog and TedX video entitled, “Can brain science help lift people of of poverty?” It was the most fascinating thing I have seen in a long time and I love Ted talks and TedX.
Video Link~ http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2014/06/can-brain-science-help-lift-people-out-of-poverty
In the video, Beth Babcock, the CEO of the non-profit Crittenton’s Women’s Union shares about what her organization has discovered on how to break the cycle of poverty. The website for her organization is http://www.liveworkthrive.org/
In her organization, she works with impoverished women, many of them mothers whom have little education are struggling to pay rent. Her program provides coaching one on one along with cognitive development training that sounded a lot like what I’ve seen on those commercials for lumosity.com. Babcock explained that poverty affects “brain circuitry biologically”. Basically, the brain gets overloaded and compromises decision making. This causes the wiring of the brain to be built differently. This means that poverty is compromising the parts of the brain that is most needed to be successful in life, the “executive functioning of the brain”, Beth says. The good news is that science shows that you can rewire the brain over time through memory and other cognitive games. These games provide “brain science scaffolding.” This has been found to work on people with post traumatic brain disorders. It seemed to work well with the women in her organization. These women went on to finish college faster than average. They were able to attain jobs that paid $45k to $50k and retain housing. It sounded really promising to me. I felt encouraged to sign in and play a few brain games.
Next, I searched the section of activities on the Center on The Developing Child and learned about the Global Children Initiatives. The activities are broken down into three domains: early childhood development, mental health and children in conflict and crisis situations. This initiative provides a platform for students and faculty to come together and be the thought leaders on the cusp of major developments and breakthroughs around the world. Each domain has opportunities for innovation and collaborations to help impact in places like Shanghai, Rwanda, Trinidad, Tobago, Haiti, Barbados, Suriname and Chile. These collaborations are happening with individual researchers, policymakers, institutions and scientists. This knowledge is being gathered and shared in a way that will be most effective.
Some examples are :
1) Piloting assessments to measure child development outcomes linked to malaria control strategies in Zambia (Early Childhood Development)
2) Developing and evaluating family-based strategies to prevent mental health problems in children affected by HIV/AIDS in Rwanda (Mental Health)
3) Bringing the science of child development into strategies for addressing acute malnutrition. (Children and Crisis)
The newsletters are archived on under news & events. The most recent newsletter leads to a video on Using Science to coach caregivers. This video goes into detail about a program called find that conducts home visits and records interactions between a child and their parent. This is a strength-based program that only addresses what parents are doing well and encourage more of the same interactions. For example, naming or verbally reflecting back what a child is doing with excitement is a version of “serve & return” an interaction that shapes the architecture of the brain. Another interaction is supporting and encouraging a behavior that the child is doing.
Here is the link to the video ~ http://developingchild.harvard.edu/index.php/resources/stories_from_the_field/innovation_in_action/find_using_science_to_coach_caregivers/
The TedX talk on poverty was the most fascinating discovery I made on the website. I think it is a major key that not mentioned by any self-help gurus or motivational speakers. It’s something I really want to explore and try out for my self. It was also interesting to read about how the collaborations were formed with researchers and policymakers. I was able to understand better how decisions are made. It was clear to me that America’s brightest and best are the ones working to find solutions and implement change.